The first season of Marvel's What If...? is officially in full swing, bringing an animated and reality-bending take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe that fans know and love. While the marketing material for the Disney+ series has hinted at some of the examples of what that will entail, the first three episodes have still been jam-packed with surprises, especially from earlier entries in the franchise. That was the case with the series' third episode, "What If... The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?", which saw the return of characters from across Phase One, including The Incredible Hulk's Betty Ross (Stephanie Panisello). Full spoilers for episode 3 of What If...? follow!
While What If...?'s version of Betty was brought to life with another voice actor, it still marked the character's first canon appearance in the MCU since the 2008 film. And in the time since the episode aired, some have already begun to wonder — could it be laying the groundwork for another return from Betty, potentially in the MCU's upcoming She-Hulk Disney+ series?
Episode 3 of What If...? saw Betty enter the fold thanks to Natasha Romanoff (Lake Bell), who needed a scientist off the books to analyze the unintentionally-fatal injection she gave to Tony Stark (Mick Wingert). Betty and Natasha met and uncovered a bit more information, and Natasha also discovered that Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) was hiding out with Betty. Things took a turn for the tragic, however, when Thunderbolt Ross (Mike McGill) arrives with the military to hunt down Natasha, and Banner dies in the ensuing battle in a grotesque explosion.
While Betty's role in the What If...? episode accomplishes multiple things — it adds an emotional core to the idea of Bruce dying as The Hulk, and it provides a clever way for Natasha to find a scientific ally outside of who had already been established in SHIELD at the time. But the very idea of Betty factoring into the episode, after over a decade of being absent from the MCU, has made some wonder if there's a larger goal of reintroducing her character to general audiences. While aspects of The Incredible Hulk have largely been ignored within the MCU — outside of Ross carrying over into other films — the tide of that is starting to change. We know that The Incredible Hulk baddie Abomination (Tim Roth) will be returning in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, before making an appearance on the She-Hulk TV show. The very concept of that series seems to be to deal with the larger "Hulk" family, with Bruce's cousin, Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), gaining superpowers after he gives her a life-saving blood transfusion.
If the She-Hulk TV show manages to acknowledge some of the lore established in The Incredible Hulk, it absolutely would make sense for Betty to be a part of that, given her tie to what initially happened with Hulk and Abomination all those years ago. Plus, if What If...?'s scenes between Betty and Natasha were any indication, there's definitely something entertaining about the idea of seeing Liv Tyler's take on Betty share the screen with some of thee MCU's other female characters, while also strengthening her own character as well. Luckily, rumors dating back as early as 2019 hinted that Tyler's version of Betty could be returning in She-Hulk — but we'll have to wait and see if that ends up being the case.
New episodes of What If...? debut on Wednesdays exclusively on Disney+. She-Hulk is expected to debut on Disney+ in 2022.